Someone forwarded me a video link recently and I followed it to www.TED.com. I noticed their tag line: Ideas worth spreading. Riveting talks, by remarkable people, free to the world. This website is a collection of inspirational videos on random subjects. I prowled around briefly, mildly impressed with their tag line.
The speeches are filmed in a good technological setting but the people in question are not world-class communicators. They are simply people with a passion.
So I listened to Brene Brown talk about overcoming shame. Halla Tomasdottir gave a very straight forward feminist rant about why men were the cause of the economic debacle in Iceland and her female run financial services company dodged the bullet simply because they thought like women. Oliver Sacks explored the physiology of blind people having hallucinations. A teacher shared her new model for transforming kids in the classroom instead of educating them.
All were interesting. None of them were particularly compelling — in fact I don’t think I finished any of the clips. I was just in a drifting mood but after a few minutes, I closed the site and went on to something else.
As I dug into the assignment du jour, my internal monitor tentatively floated the observation that I felt better after watching those. Since I was surprised by the comment and was not really engaged yet in the productive, cerebral endeavor of the hour, I leaned back, put my heels up on my desk and listened inside.
I was indeed feeling upbeat, positive, encouraged, energized. And it had to have come from the video clips. What a surprise. How could I have unintentionally received an emotional lift from such a low impact exercise?
Whenever we accidentally do something right, we try to reverse engineer it to figure out if we can do it again — or better yet, bottle it and make it available to you too. So I went to work breaking the whole down into its component parts.
It wasn’t the technology. Their video work was just right: good enough to not distract, but they abstained from all the fancy technogeek stuff that actually detracts from presentations in my opinion.
It didn’t seem to be the topics. None kept me engaged to the end.
I wondered if these were big spirited prechristians. Umm…possibly one out of the batch, but no, for the most part they were pretty soulish.
I camped for a while on the fact that they didn’t want anything from me. Most everyone I meet, from the checker at the store to the e-mailer at work, wants something from me. Sometimes they are overt ($63.29 please), and sometimes there are well-hidden agendas.
It was quite true that none of these people needed a thing from the audience. Each was absolutely convinced that they had mastered their trade and they were here to share strength, vision, and strategy with us. They came to give intellectually and in the process they gave emotionally as well.
I wondered if that was it. Was I just so depleted from too many hoses in my tank that a small dab of life flowing my way gave me such a lift? It seemed extreme. I didn’t think I was THAT depleted. Still, for lack of a better answer, I assumed that was it.
The situation kept on churning in the background as my heels came down and my fingers began to prance around the keyboard once again.
Then today it hit me. They were implementors and they were being celebrated! They had all started from zero or below and had built something of substance. They had results. Each one had walked through an uncharted maze, with varying degrees of (non)support, facing sundry problems at home and at work while they pursued an answer, AND THEY ARRIVED.
This is what fed my soul. This is where the rub is for me.
There is such a world of difference between a visionary and a dreamer. The dreamers talk big about what they are going to do, but they have a thousand excuses for why they are not moving toward their dream today.
The visionaries are able to look at the same bleak landscape the dreamers see, but they invest deeply of their own selves in order to leverage meager resources into a tiny bit of solid ground, then against all odds they leverage that spot into a space and the space into a playing field.
After years or decades of set backs, heart breaks, losses and successes, they have something to show for their ordeal while the dreamers are still celebrating what will be, while they make soft choices on a day-to-day basis.
I loved the fact that there was a forum for implementors to share their journey and their excellence with no inhibitions.
In our Christian community there are two killers which broadly prevent us from doing what they did. First is the false humility theology that equates all excellence as a show of pride. Second is the endless huckstering in the church which causes people to tune out as soon as someone talks about their vision, because we know they will be passing the tin cup at the end of their spiel.
Not so with these people. They had a forum where it was OK to talk about their broken beginnings, their challenging road and their joy in triumphing. They were not looking for money or recruits. They simply celebrated the joy of developing a new tool, approach, business or idea, and they were in turn celebrated by people who came for no other reason than to celebrate success.
I realized that this is part of who we are at Sapphire Leadership Group. On the one hand we listen with boredom and pain to the many dreamers who want to be affirmed in their decision not to act on their calling.
On the other, we are a safe place to celebrate excellence. So many do celebrate with us.
Whether on the phone or via e-mail, a lot of people who have successfully executed a plan, against all odds, tell us about it and find a safe context to share their triumph.
And it is tragic that so many of them have no one else to celebrate with. It is just not right that they can’t share with those around them because of jealousy, because of small-minded people, because of the guardians of humility and all those other reasons.
It is just not right that when someone has worked hard and achieved much, their very success becomes yet another point of danger for them.
So on this New Year’s Day, 2011, I am challenging you to make a different kind of New Year’s Resolution. Instead of committing to some new discipline that is going to make you a better person, what if you made a commitment to once a month make a safe venue for celebration for someone who had achieved?
When you are at the hair dresser’s, or the gym, or the bowling alley, or fishing, or sitting with Granddad at the family reunion, ask one of these two questions. “What is the hardest thing you ever overcame in your life?” “What is the biggest thing you ever accomplished?”
Then sit back and listen and marvel. Most of the greatest stories in our midst are not told, until someone who has a commitment to be a celebrant builds a platform.
Think of it this way: here on earth our theology is all about focusing on Jesus to the exclusion of ourselves. And there is a lot to that.
But have you ever thought about the fact that most of what we know about heaven is that our King will be celebrating us?
From the heart warming greeting, “Well done, good and faithful servant” to the fact that our clothing will be customized to represent our accomplishments, heaven is about celebrating our achievements.
So if Christ models that for us, why don’t we offer that to friends and strangers around us?
Next time you are at the Little League game sitting next to someone cheering for his grandson, ask him about his best play when he was playing sandlot baseball, back in the day.
Copyright January 2011 by Arthur Burk
From the Quarterdeck, in Anaheim